Powered by Purpose Speaker, Emily Steele, is the ultimate relationship-builder. Read her guest blog to find out what first sparked her realization that it was her purpose and learn how building meaningful relationships could help you amplify your purpose and better your business. 

Throughout childhood, I thought in order to succeed, I had to be the best at everything – grades, band, athletics, you name it. It wasn’t until I heard my communications professor at Drake University, Dean Blume, say: “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,” that the light bulb went off for me.

Building relationships has long been a passion of mine, but after that, I was a woman on a mission. I began introducing myself to everyone I encountered – people in class, guest speakers, and individuals on campus who influenced me. I realized: maybe my superpower is building relationships?!

In 2012, I graduated. But while everyone else voyaged into the corporate world to start their careers, I chose to bike across the country, from San Diego to Myrtle Beach, for clean water in Kenya. In order to participate, I had to fundraise $5,500, which for a poor college graduate felt like it may as well have been $1 billion.

Emily Steele 2Using the connections I’d curated over time, I was able to raise the money within a couple months – much quicker than I anticipated. The people who donated were friends, people I’d met for coffee, and the guests who had visited my classes with whom I’d kept in touch. They were all people who, at one point, were complete strangers. It was then that I knew I was really good at creating and building influential and lasting connections.

Over the next 10 years, I helped launch and build several relationship-building initiatives, including Fem City Des Moines, the Water Ride and the local influencer group, hummingbirds. I was also able to create and establish my current full-time endeavor called Love Local. We help nonprofits and businesses build communities of local consumers who love their brand, much of it based on internet connections. Over time, I have learned that while the world uses technology more and more for communication, establishing positive personal connections is still important.

Everything I do is summed up by this Maya Angelou quote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said and what you’ve done, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

So my question to you is: how do you make people feel? Do you consider whether you help people feel seen, heard and worthy of love, even when online or through social media? The amazing ripple effect of doing so can be felt by others in the moment, the days following and even for years to come. What helps us build meaningful lives and attract purposeful company is personally leading with the spirit of making others feel better than they did when you first met them.

Making people feel heard and important also translates over to operating a successful business. It’s easy to get caught up in the misconception of what a “brand” is – a logo, website language, colors and fonts. A brand, however, is really what people think about their experiences with you or your business, in person or online. We get to shape our brand look and feel, but at the end of the day, your customers or clients get to decide what your brand represents. Are you being intentional about their experiences everywhere you show up?

My overall advice for developing relationships in a progressively digital world is simple—be meaningful. Devote time and thought to your communications, considering what may be important or relevant to the person on the other side of the computer screen or social media platform. If you can’t meet someone in person, consider Zoom meetings. My personal opinion is that, even in a digital age, snail mail and a nice hand-written note, will never get old or go unnoticed.

I believe we are all unique pieces of art—no one is you, and that is your power. When you believe and trust that, your voice matters. It can help you grow something meaningful in both your personal and professional lives. Focusing on what you can give instead of what you can get builds a powerful perspective that ironically pays off.

Emily Steele is owner of Love Local and hummingbirds and has worked with hundreds of local brands over the last decade to help them show up powerfully online.

Topics: Powered by Purpose

Erin Drinnin

Written by Erin Drinnin

Erin Drinnin is United Way's former Community Impact Officer for Essential Needs and Health & Well-Being.